And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
The LORD appeared ( past tense ), where? At the tent door where Abraham sat.2
And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them
, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
Notice, he left the entrance to the tent. Also notice, the 3 men stood. They had stopped, they weren't traveling anymore, they were waiting. And, Abraham does not bow to them, he bows to the ground.3
And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
This prayer is not directed to the men. He probably said it in an undertone. Abraham had interrupted his communion in order to be hospitable to the 3 travelers in the heat of the day. Why would he ask them not to pass by, if they had already stopped? Instead it makes more sense that he is praying to the LORD whom was already there before the men had arrived. Abraham is asking the LORD to remain present eventhough he is interrupted with guests.4
Also, does it makes sense for him to ask 3 strangers if they have seen him in favor? He doesn't even know these people. The word for "in thy sight" is singular.
Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5
And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
Now Abraham is talking to the men. How do we know? Notice, he says "comfort ye hearts". Hearts is plural. Feet is plural. Previously "in thy sight" is singular. The subject has changed.6
"They said" in return "do as thou has said". If these were 2 angels + the LORD, why didn't the LORD answer? It doesn't make sense for the vassals to speak and the monarch to remain silent if they're traveling in a group. If Abraham had been addressing the 3 traveling together, first the leader ( "My Lord if I have found favor..." ), and there was no answer, does it make sense for the vassals to answer "yes please wash our feet and refresh our hearts"?
No. It makes more sense that Abraham's prayer was to the LORD who was not a member of the group.
And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it
, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7
And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it
unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8
And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it
before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
No mystery here. Abraham rushes to perform hospitality for his guests.9
And they said unto him, Where is
Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
If the LORD is among the 3, why do they need to ask any questions? It doesn't make sense. The 3 were a distinct group, and the LORD is different. And the same problem as before, why are the vassals asking any questions at all?10
For comparisson, consider the story of the burning bush. An angel appeared in the fire, but it didn't speak. Only God spoke to Moses. The vassals deferred to the monarch.
And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it
in the tent door, which was
One of the 3 men makes a prediction. Sarah heard it.11
Now Abraham and Sarah were
well stricken in age; and
it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
This is very important. Important note: she laughs and is not afraid. Also, she says these things to herself not outloud.13
And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
Last chapter, Abraham circumcises himself and God promises that Sarah will have a child. But apparently, Abraham didn't tell Sarah. That's an important detail. So what does God do? Sarah receives prophecy. This is not a new idea, Sarah is mentioned in Talmud and Midrash as a great prophetess.15
So, these words from the LORD directed to Abraham are also heard by Sarah.
Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
Why was Sarah afraid? Because she had just heard the voice of the LORD for the first time. If this was the voice of the men outside the tent, she would not have been afraid. Again, the LORD is distinct from the 'men' who arrived.16
And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
No mystery here.17
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
This is also very important. What is the purpose of this monologue? This distinguishes between the men who arrived and the LORD. Remember, the men asked "where is Sarah?" That group isn't omniscient. Here, it's important to let the reader know that God has already decided, God already knows, God doesn't need to find anything out. This again distinguishes between the men who arrived and the LORD who was present before they came.20
If the LORD were part of that group, then these verses would be extraneous. It would make perfect sense for the LORD to go and see about Soddom, in the same way that the men asked about Sarah. But since they are two distinct groups, the men ask and say things, and the LORD does it differently.
In case it's unclear, who is the LORD speaking to here? I think, it's to us, to the reader.
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21
I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
Now the LORD is speaking to Abraham.22
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
It doesn't say how many men... It doesn't say they heard. They were headed to Soddom already. It might as well have been the group of 3. And the LORD is seperate from them.
And then the story continues, with the dialogue between the LORD and Abraham. As stated, the LORD knew that Abraham would advocate for the inhabitants. The LORD already knew what was happening there. It wasn't really a negotiation.
If you pay close attention, in the entire story Abraham uses an ambiguous name for the LORD. Compare to Genesis 15:2 and Genesis 15:8 where a specific name is used. So, when God appears in a vision in Gen 15 Abraham seems more confident about who he is speaking with. Here, an ambiguous name is used.
The wording in this last narrative is a little peculiar.
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Why doesn't Abraham prostrate himself like he did at the beginning of the story or even in Genesis 17:1-3? This also suggests that what's happening in this story is an indirect revelation.33
And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
"went his way" is not necessarily a literal physical leaving. "Communing" here is literally "speaking" if one looks at the original Hebrew. So, this could have been an audible encounter.